Spring-Sale-txt_zpsdee0928cWhen RPG Maker heroes aren’t battling evil, they enjoy setting their eyes on new horizons. Journeying across space and time, they can take a brief moment to relax and enjoy new experiences.

As summer approaches, many of us are finding ourselves planning for a summer vacation or a holiday away from our responsibilities. Maybe you’re also thinking about taking a break from the astonishing game you’ve been working hard on. Or maybe you would rather shut out the world, pushing through that last stretch of work that will make your demo ready to release to the world!

We want to encourage that adventurous spirit, so we’ve planned a lot of fun for the coming week!

First is a challenging mapping competition with a great new theme and fun prizes.

Next, we have what was revealed through our puzzles on Facebook: a fantastic new sale! Each day, we will be exploring a different location or theme, and all the while give you major discounts on our products. Whether you’re just looking to complete your collection of resources or you want to get the best deal possible, this sale is not to be missed.

CHECK OUT OUR CURRENT THEME HERE

Also, as an added bonus, keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter for RPG Lightning Trivia, with a chance to win even more prizes! At random times throughout the week, we will post trivia questions related to RPGs, and the first person who answers correctly will be entered into our end of sale prize drawing!

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Recently, we had the chance to get to know Justin Amirkhani and Jake Reardon of Vagabond Dog, the minds behind the upcoming game Always Sometimes Monsters. We were also pleasantly surprised when we learned that Always Sometimes Monsters was made with our software! Fast forward a bit and I got to ask them a bit about what makes them tick, the game, and even RPG Maker in general. Let’s see what they had to say!

What was it that led you to want to make games?

Jake: I’ve been enamored with games since I was a wee lad. Ever since first beating Donkey Kong and Cosmic Avenger on my Colecovision, games have been my main source of entertainment. Over the years I’ve tinkered with many experiments and half games that I never finished. The creation of a game is something so rewarding that I think everyone should try it. It’s incredibly satisfying to see people playing something you made and enjoying a world you created.

Justin: I grew up with games like pretty much everyone else in the industry, but professionally I first got into the industry as a journalist. I spent years writing reviews and interviews, but never actually making anything myself.

Eventually I grew restless with that path and decided to try something different. I began a project that let me backpack across America visiting game developers and that experience inspired me to start working on Always Sometimes Monsters when I returned home.

What kind of games do you generally like? Which ones do you think influenced this game in particular?

Justin: My tastes are pretty widely ranged and I find myself frequently playing a little bit of everything. Funny enough, I tend towards action games more frequently than narrative ones these days, but if a game is good or doing something interesting it’ll end up on my radar regardless of genre.

It’s hard to say if there are any specific games that Always Sometimes Monsters is directly influenced by, but there are several scenes from a variety of games that inspired content in our game. One weird one I like to mention is the warehouse scene in Mafia II as it helped create the box moving segment we showed off at PAX East. For some reason the monotony of that sequence stuck with me and it was something I wanted to play with design wise, so it was a pretty big contributor.

Jake: I don’t have a specific type of game I play. I pretty much play them all. I do enjoy games that allow you to be wrapped up in their world and lose yourself for a few hours. One of my favorite games is Beyond Good and Evil. Everything in that game just seems like it belongs and is part of the world. From the characters, to the enemies, and locations, that world sucks you in. I’ve enjoyed games like Resident Evil 4, and spent countless hours playing more mindless games like Borderlands 2. As far as influences for Always Sometimes Monsters, there are probably too many to count. A few of the first items we created in the game were a bank card and a little white dog (Earthbound anyone?). I think the original Legend of Zelda is one of the most perfect games ever created. Stick me in a world with an old man and a sword and tell me to go find adventure.

And on the subject of your Always Sometimes Monsters, why this game?

Justin: It’s funny you ask that because I’m still not 100% sure. Unlike most developers I didn’t want to make games, and then decide to make this one. This game (or at least similar versions of it) have been in my head since I was a kid and I think it’s because I’ve always wanted to play something like it.

Knowing that nobody else would make it was a big part of the reason for making it. I’d waited for a long time to see a game reflect the world and reality the way I saw it, but it never came. Eventually after the influence of my experience on the road, I decided it was time to quit waiting and just make it myself. I suppose the answer as to why we made this game is simply because nobody else did.

Jake: For me, I think it was really Justin’s passion about the concept of what the game could be that sold me on it. It sounded like a cool story that could offer people a wide range of experiences. It hearkens back to building a world and systems for people to be let loose in and explore. There is also an opportunity for the game to be a very personal story for every person who plays it. Some friends I’ve watched play craft an entire back story while my wife just wants to make as much money as she can and feed the dog liver treats.

What would you say your game is about? Not just he plot, but what themes will a player get to enjoy with it?

Justin: There’s a lot in there, and it’s a pretty wide range too. It’s fundamentally a story about life and figuring out how you define life for yourself. There’s the basics of course – love, friendship, betrayal, hardship – but then there’s this subtle, almost metaphysical layer as well.

When writing the content I spend a lot of time thinking about choices, both as a game mechanic and as a fundamental principle of the universe. In ways the game asks you to decide for yourself if choice is even real – whether we get the opportunity of choice in life or if circumstance and the momentum of consequence have more control over things than we think.

Jake: Its about life, love, and the lows and highs of the human experience. That probably sounds pretentious, but its not meant to be. It’s about the common human experience we all share. At the end of the day, everyone can identify or has experienced a lot of what we deal with in the game.

What part of making the game did you enjoy the most? Do you have any funny stories to tell about making the game?

Justin: Jake’s probably going to disagree with me here, but there was a period when making the game where I’d spend night after night in my local Tim Hortons making the weirdest stuff during our concept phase. For me there was nothing more fun than watching all the freaks and weirdos of the 24-hour coffee joint while having total freedom to create and experiment with whatever I could think to add into the game world.

Of course that meant every morning Jake’d wake up to the frustration of finding my half-baked code that would completely fall apart under certain conditions and on top of trying to figure out the method behind my madness, he’d have to repair it. I honestly believe this process led us to having great faith in each other’s disciplines.

Jake: I think for me, I enjoy crafting the world and creating the dynamic systems for players to discover. We have something really stupid in the game where you can invest in Sandwich stocks. You could theoretically put all of your money on the Sandwich market, and then monitor the prices daily to maximize profit. We also have a sort of day/night system, where certain events happen on certain days. You actually can’t experience all the game has to offer in one play through, because part of making choices is about deciding what or who is most important to you.

What is it like to try and sell a game in the current indie market? Any advice for other indie hopefuls?

Jake: I can’t really say yet what it’s like, but having the tools and the ability to bring a game like this to millions of potential gamers is something that maybe didn’t exist 5 years ago. It also helps that all of the other developers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at events like PAX have been incredibly supportive. We all want each other to do well and share our creative visions with as many people as possible. As for advice, all I can say is that if you want to make a game, go make one! It’s as easy as that.

Justin: Today’s gaming market is all about freedom and independence for developers. We live in an age where digital distribution has made games of all sizes viable products. The tools to make games are more affordable than they have ever been in history. Right now you can start making your dream game with no formal training or experience and actually see it to release thanks to all the free information and tutorials available online.

The only advice I’ve got for indie hopefuls is to never forget what a glorious age we live in. The only barrier between you and your dreams is your personal will to succeed. If you want it, it’s there for the taking – all you have to do is work hard and believe in what you’re doing.

What was it like pitching your game to Devolver Digital? What is the relationship like there?

Justin: When I was travelling around America, I had an opportunity to meet with Nigel from Devolver in a seedy little bar in Austin, Texas. There we talked about games and I gave him the basic idea for the game that would become Always Sometimes Monsters would become.

Later that next year, Devolver was seeing games at GDC and so Jake and I flew out for the opportunity to show them. We couldn’t afford to actually get into the show, so we met outside the convention and sat on the floor with our prototype. To our surprise, within a few months we had paperwork and a deal to get the game rolling.

Jake: It was actually pretty nerve racking. When Justin mentioned he had met a few publishers during his travels and suggested pitching our game to them, I really didn’t know what to think. We took a two month prototype out to GDC in San Francisco, and met with Devolver in the hallway outside the show floor. We pretty much spent the entire night before tweaking and perfecting our demo. Our meeting lasted about half an hour but they really only saw about 5 minutes of the demo. It was the only meeting we had and a month later, we ended up signing a deal to work together. I think the best part about Devolver is that they are all good human beings trying to do cool things and aren’t afraid to take a chance on a couple of Canadian yahoos who’ve never made a game before. Their faith in us has helped propel us to the product we have today.

So you made your game with RPG Maker, what is your history with the series?

Jake: Building the prototype for Always Sometimes Monsters was actually my first real experience using RPG Maker. I had build a prototype in XNA and was going back and forth showing Justin and our artist at the time a guy walking around an empty world. It was really slow to create anything of substance. On a whim, I figured I would give RPG Maker a try. We were able to get a few scenes up and running in a much shorter time period, and it’s a great tool for experimentation. Once we started crafting the world we didn’t look back. Of course, every week we would learn something new, or find a new technique so things evolved fairly quickly. One thing I love about RPG Maker is its a great tool for highly technical people like myself to tinker with and get under the hood, but it’s also simple enough for anyone to start prototyping ideas or experimenting with gameplay. What I am finding more and more as I go along that it’s not about the tool you use to create your game, but about the game you create.

Justin: In its various forms, RPG Maker has been part of my life since elementary school. I was 7 or 8 years old when RPG Maker ’95 came out. Between it and RPG Maker 2000 spent a decent amount of my childhood mucking about in the engine, learning the basics. By the time I hit high school, I’d sort of given up on making games and didn’t really touch anything else for years to come.

Now it seems life has come full circle. The tool I trained with as a kid grew up with me and happened to be a fantastic environment for Always Sometimes Monsters. We dove into VX Ace to build a prototype and I was honestly shocked how much of the tool set I remembered. If you’ll pardon the cliche, for me working in RM was like riding a bike – I never really forgot how.

Thanks so much Jake and Justin for taking the time to talk to me, and good luck with your upcoming release!

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A train pulls into the station, and our hero flips from on top of it, after defeating two guards, we discover he is a former member of a group known as SOLDIER and now a mercenary working for a group planning to take down the evil corporation Shinra for the damage it is doing to the planet.

openingffviiSo why am I telling you the opening to Final Fantasy VII? Have I just gone so mad that I’ll resort to nearly anything to have something to put up on the blog? Will you tune in next time to see a 300 page synopsis of Persona 3, or do I actually have a point coming?

What this is, is a hook, and every game needs one.

What is a Hook?

The hook is the part of the opening of your story that gets the players interested. Bored players don’t keep playing.

And I know what you are thinking: “Give it some time, it gets better!” And hey, that very well may be true. You might have the greatest story ever penned, but each and ever one of us has a million different options for entertainment in front of us. If your game doesn’t interest me in the first 20 minutes or so, I doubt I will play it much longer.

Its not a lack of patience, its a lack of time. I have a job, and a family, and if statistics hanging around the internet are correct, I’m not alone. Why would I spend more than 20 minutes playing something I don’t find interesting when I only have about an hour or two of spare time a day, and about 30 games I bought on Steam Sale that I haven’t even touched yet?

Now, hopefully, I don’t get any of the “but if people just had patience” lines, so let’s look at some ways to craft hooks.

Go Easy on the Exposition

Look. I know that you have spent the last decade of your life carefully crafting the world I am exploring, so how about you have some respect for your world and try not to explain the whole thing with ten minutes of word vomit at the beginning.

Also known as Naruto Fightscene Syndrome

Also known as Naruto Fightscene Syndrome

Only give the player the information he needs to do what he is doing at the moment in the world. You will have PLENTY of time throughout the game to flesh things out through the natural interactions of the characters.

Please, PLEASE, just don’t start your game with a ton of scrolling text. A few lines is OK, but I don’t actually need to know every nuance of the ongoing war to get started.

In Medias Res

In medias res, latin for “in the midst of things”, is a writing term that means just that: starting in the middle of things.

Try starting your story in the middle of the first big dungeon. You have plenty of time to scoot back and tell more about what happened before, starting with a bang means people jump into the excitement as soon as possible.

Get People Asking Questions

Another thing you want to do to create a good hook is get people asking questions. This one really goes back to the first point. Give just enough information for the player to be curious. Why does this character hate that character? Why is this group trying to do this? Where did he learn to do that?

"Who was that masked man?"

“Who was that masked man?”

Make sure to lead your players into asking questions. You can even have a character start to explain something but be interrupted, or just trail off. Mystery makes people come back for more.

Give us a character we can empathize with in a bad situation

The thing about a hook is that we have to make the character CARE. And what better to make a person care than a person, albeit a fictional one. Put a likeable character in a bad situation that the player has to fix, and watch the player jump like a marionette.

A small child with a disease, and only you can travel to get the herbs to save him. A friend of the main character is in trouble with the law and you have to find out what really happened.

There are a million other ways to hook in a player. But what you really need to be asking yourself is one thing: Why should the player care? It can be a character, a mystery, because the game started with a blast of awesome, but it has to be something. And it has to be given to the player right at the beginning.

What do you do in the beginning of your game to make your players care? Join us in the comments section below.

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As I mentioned in a couple of posts back, I’m working on a game again, and one of the things I was going to do was talk about it step by step as I completed it. I had intended on my next post about it to be about the ramifications of the choices I made in the story and setup, but I realized there was something else to talk about here after my last couple of weeks.

So, over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a car catch on fire, a huge birthday party my wife threw for me (which meant us cleaning most of the house), and a ton of work to do before I leave on vacation soon. I was swamped, I had so much stuff to do and nothing was working out.

OK, guys, I like blowing out birthday candles as much as the next guy, but this is just ridiculous.

OK, guys, I like blowing out birthday candles as much as the next guy, but this is just ridiculous.

For most of us, game creating is a hobby, not a responsibility, and it’s really easy to let your hobby projects get pushed to the side and forgotten when disasters and responsibilities strike.

But there is the problem, disasters just don’t stop happening. Life will happen all the time, and the only way you are going to finish anything is to stay on track, and keep plugging away. So how do you keep from getting distracted and dropping your project?

Keep Thinking About It

Look, we are all busy (and if you are not, I envy you). But let’s be honest, when we are just driving around following a car that may or may not be about to catch on fire to sell it to a junkyard, it’s not like your brain is really occupied. We have plenty of time every day where our bodies are doing something, but our brain really isn’t. So, instead of thinking about what would have been the most wicked comeback to that thing your friend said to you 2 days ago, try thinking about your game instead.

Good job Ralph. You are obviously the king of comebacks.

Good job Ralph. You are obviously the king of comebacks.

Think about the personalities of your characters. Think about what made them behave that way. Think about how those clashes of personality make your characters feel about each other. Or think about your mechanics. What would be some cool ideas of how things can work?

It is true, just thinking doesn’t make a game, but there is plenty of thinking you do need to do, and thinking about the game keeps it from being pushed out the back of your mind and forgotten.

Give Yourself Goals

The thing about a hobby project, is that the only person who will hold you to finishing things is yourself. So you have to be the one to do the motivating.

So set yourself goals. Congratulate yourself when you reach them, and examine seriously why you are failing to finish them if you don’t. Make sure to pick appropriate sized goals. You want your goal to be small enough that you are achieving goals regularly, but large enough that they aren’t a complete joke.

... I guess that is pretty good for a baby.

… I guess that is pretty good for a baby.

Regularly completing decent sized goals can really keep you coming back. A sense of accomplishment is one of the most driving factors for a lot of people. Just don’t berate yourself too much for not completing goals. Negative feelings can drive some people forward, but a lot of people will just get down.

Get Other People Hyped

Other people’s excitement can also drive you to complete your game. Start a forum thread on it on the official forums, tell your friends and your family. Whoever you think would be interested.

But, more so than any other way of keeping yourself on track, this is a double edged sword. You can feed off the energy and really get yourself motivated… or you can fall behind on your game and all the expectations of others crush you. Be CAREFUL doing this. Don’t promise more than you think you can deliver, and expect to disappoint occasionally. Just try better the next day.

No joke, I seriously felt a little down about it taking nearly 3 weeks to get another post up about making this game.

No joke, I seriously felt a little down about it taking nearly 3 weeks to get another post up about making this game.

Mix It Up

Don’t try to do one thing in your game constantly without touching other parts. We all have portions of the maker that we may not like to do as much…

Seriously, I really hate doing Action Patterns and Battle Events.

Seriously, I really hate doing Action Patterns and Battle Events.

… so don’t save those all for last. Think about it. How fun would it be to have hours and hours of nothing but the part you hate left to do on your game.

Mix it up. Do a little bit of the parts you dislike in between parts you DO like. Don’t leave yourself with what looks like an unclimbable mountain in the end.

So What Do You Do?

We all experiment with ways to motivate ourselves, and ways to keep ourselves from falling behind. How do you do it? Join us in the comments section below.

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-A Beginner Tutorial-

Autotiles are a great concept. They make drawing up maps incredibly fast. Look at the map below. Yes, I mean, it is simple and not good looking yet, but its a solid base and it took all of a minute to draw out. The walls, roof, and path all have nice edges drawn automatically. But sometimes, the autotiling gets it wrong. Wouldn’t it look better if the path went all the way to the door? And what if we didn’t want the path running off the bottom edge of the map?

That is where shift clicking comes in, and is one of the most basic, but powerful tools you have for making a great looking map. Let’s tackle that path going to the door first!

Shiftclick1First, you need to remember that right-clicking on a tile on the map copies it. But it copies just the general “idea” of an autotile. It doesn’t remember which permeation of the autotile it is. To do that, you need to use Shift. To grab the exact permeation of the autotile, find it on your map (in this case I found it in the section highlighted below) and hold down shift and right click on it.

Shiftclick2Now, if you were to then just left click on the place you want it, it still would just place a generic autotile. To use the permeation you copied, you need to once again hold shift while clicking. And with a shift left click: Voila. The path now goes under the door!

Shiftclick3But what if you don’t have the permeations you need? Well, just draw a shape that will create them in a blank spot. To get the shape of the path bottom I need, I drew the rectangle below.

Shiftclick4Also remember you can copy MULTIPLE tiles at once. Just hold down shift while right click dragging over the section you want…

Shiftclick5… And shift + left click where you want it to go. Its THAT easy!

Shiftclick6After that, you can erase the extra stuff you created to grab the autotiles you wanted and you are ready to continue on with your map!

Shiftclick7Remember, there are no restrictions on the groupings of tiles you select. I could shift right click the whole building up there if I wanted to, allowing me to place it EXACTLY as is anywhere on the map. Unlocking the power of shift click copying in VX Ace will allow you to make your maps much, much more organic looking, and make up for the not so perfect AI of our autotile system.

Questions? Suggestions to newbie mappers? Join us in the comments section below.

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… Or well, sometimes just a small part of it. All depending on the story you are writing of course.

Altruism

Altruism

This article, if you haven’t gathered already (I admit its not the most descriptive title) is about character motivations. WHY? Why do the characters do what they do? Yes, some of them just do it out of the goodness in their hearts, but there are so many more reasons for a character to become involved in the plot.

Motivations come in all shapes and sizes, including:

  • Altruism: Maybe they just do it because they are a good person. Granted this one is boring, especially if its EVERYONES motivation.
  • Revenge: Maybe the villain hurt the character in some way and the character is just out to get him back.
  • Guilt: The character has done something horrible in the past, and he is trying to make up for it.
  • Knowledge: The villain knows something the hero needs to know. Or maybe just the journey to find the villain will answer the questions the hero wants.
  • Survival: The character is just doing what he has to do to not die.
  • Challenge: The character is looking for something that will challenge his skills.
  • Excitement: The character is an adrenaline junky, and just adventures because its exciting!
  • Loved Ones: The character doesn’t fight because of a grand idea of altruism, he just wants to protect those close to him, and its the only way he knows how.
  • Greed: The character just wants to have it all. Maybe its money, maybe its power, but it should all be his.
  • … and more.

 Why you want a variety of motives

Revenge

Revenge

When all the heroes have the same motive, generally altruism, it tends to get boring. The reason is that everyone is working in the same direction. They just start reacting to the plot given to them in the most straightforward ways and there is a lack of tension.

But think about a story where two people are working together, but one is motivated by challenge while the other is motivated to protect his loved ones.

There is a strong enemy in front of them, but fighting him will waste time and allow lesser minions to sneak behind you. What do the different characters do?

Challenge Hero wants to take on the guy in front, Loved Ones Hero wants to pull back to protect his family. This creates tension between the heroes. Tension is exciting.

Not only is tension exciting, a whole lot of plots will basically write themselves when you think back to your characters motives. How long did it take you to think about what each character would do in the situation above? A couple of seconds write. Creating clear motives for your heroes and villains will let them react organically to the situations around them. Its like a clockwork toy, wind it up all the parts and watch where they go!

Evolving Motives

Guilt

Another fun thing to think about with motives is that motives EVOLVE over time. What if Challenge Hero mentioned above fought the challenging fight, and Loved Ones Hero couldn’t save his family without his help? How would this change their motives?

Challenge Hero becomes Guilt Hero. Fighting to protect others because he once made a mistake and innocent people died.

Perhaps the Loved Ones Hero becomes Revenge Hero. Doing all he can to hurt those that hurt him.

Even in the case that a heroes main motivation doesn’t change, he can still have the motivation evolve. Maybe a loner character who protects the only individual finds a new “family” to protect. Maybe a character who is out for revenge learns that someone else besides his target had been pulling the strings.

Evolving motives are one of the simplest ways to have character growth. And character growth adds depth to your characters.

Multiple Motives

Challenge

In general, while we tend to have “primary” motives, no one really has only one reason for what they are doing. Motives are about prioritizing things. Maybe Challenge Hero is a good guy who will help out those in need, but will go for challenge over helping people if it comes down to it.

Always try to give your characters mulitiple, prioritized motives. This creates internal conflict for the character. What does he sacrifice, and when will he sacrifice it. This, once again, adds depth to the characters.

Conclusion

To me, the best stories are the stories in which the characters motives, both protagonists and antagonists, drive the story, and where the story in turn, drives their motives. Make sure to think about your characters motives, what drives him, what secondary motives does he have, and how does the reaction of the world to those motives cause him to change.

What is the motive of your characters, and how does it affect your story? Join the conversation in the comments section below!

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HIISGCT1

All images in this article are of Chrono Trigger, a property of SquareEnix

One of the keys, in my opinion, to making good games is understanding good games. I mean, each of us has games we love, but how often do we stop and think about WHAT makes us love them? What is the component that transforms a good game into a classic?

Today, I’m going to take Chrono Trigger, a game that many of us know and love, and examine what I think it does so well that makes us love it.

The Key

I tend to find that generally, every game I love has one key component. One thing that it does so much better than almost any other game. That isn’t to say that the games don’t have other good qualities, in fact, usually good games are really well rounded and don’t have a lot of qualities that AREN’T good. But there is almost always one key component that pushes it over the edge.

So what is that component with Chrono Trigger? Is it the mechanics? They ARE good. But are they excellent? How about the characters? Also, here the game is pretty competent, but really this game isn’t a character study, and none of the characters have that much depth to them.

Magus has probably the most in depth story, but even he is pretty straight forward.

Magus has probably the most in depth story, but even his pretty straight forward idea.

The key in my opinion to Chrono Trigger’s success lies in one thing: Pacing.

Chrono Trigger is paced nearly perfectly, having a tightly told story that keeps the player moving and interested throughout the whole game. To improve our own games, let’s examine a couple of ways it does this.

Trickle Information

Chrono Trigger avoids doing something that I think is a real weakness with beginner game designers and writers. It never does a real info dump. Everything you learn in the game is done over time, with small pieces that fit together like a puzzle.

Let’s take Lavos for example. This is what we learn about it and when:

1999 AD. Day of Lavos

1999 AD. Day of Lavos

  1. Lavos destroys the world in 1999. This is learned a couple of hours into the game when the party is traveling through the year 2300.
  2. After traveling to modern times, we learn that Magus “created” Lavos in 600 AD.
  3. After defeating Magus, we learn that we were wrong, and that Magus was SUMMONING Lavos, who existed long before that.
  4. In 65,000,000 BC, after defeating Azala and saving humanity from the Reptites, you learn that Lavos crashed down from space during this time period.
  5. Later, in 12,000 BC, you learn that Lavos is the source of Magic in Chrono Trigger, and that it had awoken once in this time period due to humans attempting to use its power for themselves.

All of this plays out over HOURS of gameplay. You don’t learn a whole lot about Lavos at any one time, but you end up knowing a lot. Don’t dump a bunch of info on your players all at once. Spread out how and when you give information. Let them discover it slowly through play.

Always Give the Player Short Term Story Goals

Another part of why Chrono Trigger excels in pacing is its strong use of short term story goals. Even though you get the main story goal a couple of hours in (stop the Day of Lavos from happening), you are always approaching it in shorter term goals.

And not just “if we do this, it unlocks the ability to do that”, you are almost always working towards a short term goal you think will end Lavos in the immediate, which usually then gets changed to a new short term goal soon after.

Progression of short term goals used in Chrono Trigger

  1. Save Queen Leene
  2. Escape prison
  3. Find a way back home
  4. Recover the broken pieces of the Masamune
  5. Find Dreamstone
  6. Recover the Gate Key from Azala
  7. Fix the Masamune
  8. Defeat Magus
  9. … etc.

Its almost never “travel through this zone to get to another zone”, and you are almost always trying to accomplish something directly. Chrono Trigger gives the player lots of smaller quests that can be finished in short amounts of time each, giving the player a sense of accomplishment at regular intervals.

You never feel like the game isn’t going anywhere. You are always heading to new locations, fighting new enemies, and solving new problems.

Gaspar, on the other hand, seems to have the most boring life in existence.

Gaspar, on the other hand, seems to have the most boring life in existence.

Don’t overstay your welcome

Chrono Trigger is a tightly plotted game. What I mean by this, is that it doesn’t have a lot of cruft. We usually think of JRPGs as long 40-50 hour games, but Chrono Trigger is actually somewhere in the 20 hour range.

The game isn’t any longer than it needs to be. It flows from one moment to the next without a lot of filler that just wastes time. There just literally isn’t any wasted time in the game. Every plot point either teaches us something about the world or teaches us something new about what we are facing.

Don’t add length that isn’t necessary. Tell the story you want to tell. If you have something extra, always ask yourself: Does this add something substantial to the game, or is it just wasting the players time.

Just because the characters have a time machine doesn't mean the players do!

Just because the characters have a time machine doesn’t mean the players do!

Chrono Trigger is a wonderful game to study to learn good pacing. Do you have any other examples of why Chrono Trigger is paced well? Maybe another game that is paced perfectly as well? Or maybe you want to tell us about how another game does its thing really well? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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It’s a little passed midnight here, and I’ve been struck with it. A sudden burst of inspiration to work with RPG Maker and make a game.

I’ll be honest. I love RPG Maker. I love what it means to the average joe who wants to make a game. But if you asked me the last time I had actually used it to make a game myself… I couldn’t answer you. It has been that long. It was before I started working for RPG Maker in an official capacity I know for sure. I just had gotten to where I wanted to talk ABOUT RPG Maker and see what other people were making with it more than wanting to make something with it myself.

But here I am. Wanting to make a game again. Now my last serious attempt was ended by a hard drive failure and a failure to backup (also known as the writer is a moron)…

Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

… But I am willing to admit that one of the largest reasons I’ve only finished a single game is because of myself. I lose interest. I wander around and have great ideas and then just can’t get myself to commit enough to actually finish the game (A trait, I share with a large portion of the RM community, to be fair).

In spite of all that, here I am, about to embark on a fun journey once again in an attempt to make a game. And this post is a stream of conscious walkthrough of my decisions to make it and how I plan a game. Will it be useful to you? I hope, maybe. Its always interesting to see an inside look at how other people do what you want to do. Especially someone else who is also an amateur, which I most certainly am when it comes to making games.

The Game

The first thing to establish is what is the game about. Who are the characters, what are they doing, and what is their story.

And here is where I am a bit surprised at myself. This entire game idea is an homage to the first game I actually finished. A game I finished and showed to no one (and subsequently lost myself) and thought was terrible. The story was told badly, the mechanics were atrocious, and there was very little that was actually good about it. This game was made probably 16-17 years ago with RPG Maker 95.

A maker that is so out of date, I couldn't even find screenshots of it on the internet.

A maker that is so out of date, I couldn’t even find screenshots of it on the internet.

I’ve forgotten more about the game that I can remember, which is probably for the best, but at its core was a basic concept, and one that I will utilize in the game I’m making now.

This is a world that runs on six Elements. The classic four (Earth, Fire, Wind, Water) and an additional two (Light, Shadow). A infinitesimally small number of individuals in the world have an affinity for one of the Elements, and are hunted down by six existing schools of magic, one for each of the elements, and trained to become magic users.

The schools themselves belong to no nation, ruled by a ruling council of mages, one from each school. The mages themselves return to their homelands after being trained, becoming advisers, teachers, and protectors.

The sixth school, Shadow, has seen the rise to power of a mage who does not wish to advise the world, but control it. And that is where the story begins. With this powerful mage having executed a coup of the Shadow school, and in a series of surprise maneuvers, leaving the other five in shambles.

Within each school, only one mage survived. Each barely trained, and escaping the culling for various reasons. These are the player characters.

A bit cliche, I’ll admit, but the whole setup is something I want to use, and part of the reason for using it is the way I want to tell the story.

The Presentation

The game will be told in six parts.

First, there will be the prologue. The prologue will set up the background, and take place during the Shadow school’s culling of the others. Here, you will play as several members of the council, letting you learn a bit about the magic system I will put in place, and how the game will play. In the end, this is meant to introduce concepts of the world, how the culling happened, and how to play the game. In the end, none of the characters you play here will be alive, but it will set up some of the villainous characters as well.

The next four sections will star the survivor of the Fire, Earth, Water, and Air schools. They all chronologically in the game occur about at the same time. Things that happen in one section might affect things in another. For instance, in one section you might find yourself caught in the outskirts of a battle, while in another you learn how the battle happened and be fighting directly in it. Or a landslide caused by the Earth mage in his section might cause you to have to travel a different route in another.

Each of these four sections will star its own cast of playable characters, and will have a fairly self-contained story, though it will still end with the world in turmoil, and the Shadow school still in control.

The sixth section will be the main story. In it you will begin with the surviving student of the Light school, who will gather together the other four, who will return as playable characters. The rest of the playable cast from earlier chapters will remain as valuable NPC allies. In this section, players will confront the villainous leader of the Shadow school, and “save the world.”

The overall layout of the presentation I will use.

The overall layout of the presentation I will use. Also, yes I know, I misspelled Prologue. I am ashamed.

Each section will play almost as if it is its own game, and you can choose to play, or not play, any section. Of course if you choose to do the main story without first doing one of the previous chapters, you will get a “defaulted” hero from the previous chapter, and will lack some form of bonus you get from having played it.

Overall, I’m hoping this presentation will be interesting for several reasons.

  1. Its a presentation that I haven’t really seen used much, and I’m hoping that because of that it will appeal to players.
  2. Because each can be entirely self contained, it allows me to work on smaller chunks at once rather than attempting to make one long game and risk boredom before I’m finished with anything.
  3. I can release the prologue and get feedback earlier than if I was doing a full game, and I think the feedback can also really help in driving my desire to finish.

Next time, I’ll talk about the preparations I’m going to make to plan out the story, and how the story is going to present some gameplay challenges for me.

Interested in the game concept? Just interested in hearing how someone else walks through making a game? Or maybe you have some suggestions for me on what you think I’m doing wrong? Sound off in the comments section below.

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by Lunarea

So, you’ve found yourself facing the exciting world of game development. You’ve done your research, crunched the figures and now you’re ready to jump into those little visual and auditory details that will really make your game stand out. In other words, you’re ready for art. But where to start?

Most developers will start with what’s easily available: the RTP.

Example of an RTP-only map.

Example of an RTP-only map.

The RTP has a lot going for it. It’s essentially free with the purchase of RPG Maker, it’s done in a single and cohesive style, and it’s got a huge variety of edits from many community members. If you’re creating a classic medieval-style game, it’s got most everything you’ll need. As a style, it’s bright, cheerful and reminiscent of adventure.

However, RTP also has some downsides. It’s very commonly used – which can make it difficult to establish a unique identity for your game. Though it fits a general medieval fantasy game, it offers very little in terms of other settings. It’s more challenging to create more tense atmospheres – such as horror or darkness.

At this point, a lot of developers turn to hiring artists to create custom and unique pieces.

An example of a map with a variety of custom content (find the mushrooms here).

An example of a map with a variety of custom content (find the mushrooms here).

Custom content has the advantage of being unique to your game, as well as being tailor-fit to the story and setting you’re working with. On the other hand, custom art can quickly get very expensive – not to mention very time-consuming. Custom art and music of the same size as the RTP could easily cost tens of thousands of dollars and take a year or longer to complete.

There may also be a shortage of high-quality artists – especially those who are not currently undertaking another project or commission. All together, this makes the alternative to go completely custom in graphical resources something to be wary of.

So, what’s a developer to do?

Well, the first step is to take a long and close look at the RTP as well as the very affordable add-on content you can find in our official store. Together, they can create a strong base for your game without breaking the bank. Look at everything you can use, and be creative in how you use it. Take time to learn how to make good maps. Push yourself to take the resources at your disposal and use them to their full potential.

Step 2 is to start editing and rearranging the RTP. You may not be an artist, but you can still layer together different tile pieces or experiment with changing colors. Putting some books on top of a bookshelf adds a personal touch of detail to your tileset and these little details are the beginning of what can set your game apart. Look at recoloring and rearranging tutorials, as well as various screenshots other developers are posting. This clumping tutorial by Indrah is a great example of how to get started in tile editing.

Lastly, invest in buying custom pieces for the most iconic or easily-recognized pieces:

  • For characters, invest in custom sprites of your party – as well as their facesets and/or portraits.
  • For tiles, invest in custom pieces that are repeated throughout various maps – trees, windows, flowers/plants, rocks, basic furniture such as beds, and small objects that can accent different areas.
  • For music, invest in an introduction theme, main character theme, game over theme and battle theme. These are the themes the player will be hearing most often, so you really want to make them memorable and unique to your game.
  • For scripts, consider hiring a scripter who could create and/or integrate a series of script systems that are unique to your game. Have a detailed list of features you want to implement and look for things that can be accomplished via eventing alone.
  • Finally, invest in custom title, game over and large cover art (ex. 2000×2000 pixels) images. Cover art in particular is important because it gives you a base you can use for any art assets distribution platforms might use. For example, Valve’s Steam expects you to have banners and images in a specific size. Having cover art that can be quickly resized to fit is a huge time-saver.

Do you have any advice for developers starting out in the commercial world? Sound off below!

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There were many, many fantastic entries in the farm mapping contest, and it was really tough choosing the winners. Thank you all so much for participating and for making this event a resounding success. We’re looking forward to hosting more fun events of this nature in the future.

Now, onto the winners!

Celianna’s choice is:

thatbennyguy:

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Community votes go to:

Candacis:

Candacis_zps90dca8da

and

Chaos17:

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Randomly chosen winners (generated with a number generator) are:

mlogan:

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Dark_Metamorphosis:

Dark_Metamorphosis_zps048f8f5aWinners can PM Lunarea on the forums!

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